Foursquare Swarm Badge at The Sandbar

Nerd alert: this post won't make sense to many of you. But it's an interesting account of the activities at the Sandbar last Thursday night when the Free State Social community tweetup took place.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking site. Users "check in" when they go places, and their friends can see where they are. The game aspect is one appeal of Foursquare- check in's accumulate points, which in turn allow the user to earn different badges. One of these badges is the elusive "Swarm Badge," which can only be earned if 50 or more people are checked into the same place at the same time. It's like a Foursquare flash mob.

Our neighbors in Kansas City have organized several events to try to earn the Swarm Badge, and each time they've fallen short by just a few people. Lots of people thought the Swarm Badge would be earned at the Free State Social conference last week- since many of the attendees use Foursquare and 300 people were at the conference- but it didn't happen.

I never thought we'd earn the Swarm Badge at Thursday night's community tweetup- after all, if we didn't get it at the conference where all the attendees were in the same place at the same time, it didn't seem possible to unlock it at the tweetup, where participants were spread all over downtown Lawrence in a million different places.

However, people kept coming to the Sandbar on Thursday night, and our friend Jacinta sent the first tweet about swarming the Sandbar. More tweets and retweets followed, and more people kept coming to the bar and checking in. Suddenly we had 16 people checked in, then 33, then 45. The Swarm Badge seemed like a real possibility. Even people who don't normally use Foursquare checked in to help with the cause, and at 9:50 p.m. the 50th person checked in and unlocked the Swarm Badge for everyone:

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A funny irony- our legal capacity is 49, and 50 people are needed to unlock the badge. There may have been more than 49 people in the bar, but the patio was busier than it's ever been too.

I think we're the first place to unlock the Swarm Badge in Kansas, from what I've heard. This might seem trivial, and perhaps it is. But it was a fun activity on Thursday- it encouraged people to network with new people and gave them something to talk about, and it helped add to the sense of community that was already created by Free State Social. 

And, of course, it was great for business on Thursday. I saw several tweets from people who only came to the Sandbar so they could check in and try to get the Swarm Badge- I don't know if they bought anything or not, but at least they were exposed to our crazy little world for a little bit of time. Maybe they'll be back sometime.

If you were there, leave a comment and let us know what you thought. If you want to write a guest post about your experience at the Sandbar, we're up for that too.

Old-School Checkins

If you follow any kind of social media, you've probably heard about "checking in" and location-based social networks. Maybe you've even been teased by your friends about being the "mayor" of a location in town (yes, I speak from experience).

But back in the days when Foursquare was still a playground game with a bouncy red ball, and Yelp was something you did when you hit your funny bone on the desk, people were checking in to The Sandbar in a decidedly old-fashioned way.

Dave and Peach long ago figured out that the way to attract more customers was to first attract the ladies; the men would soon follow. They came up with a game to encourage the girls to come in and stay awhile, and one that would reward them for time well spent.

They set up an old time clock near the door and created time cards for regular female customers; upon arrival, the ladies would punch in at the time clock, and punch out when they left. After accumulating a certain amount of time at the bar, the girls could pick out gift shop merchandise like t-shirts as a prize.

I honestly don't remember this gimmick- so either it was pre-1996, or I wasn't cool enough to have a time card. Dave doesn't remember how long it lasted, but it was fun to hear about an old-school style promotion.

Of course, now Dave and Peach think it would be funny to bring it back, since I've been trying to sell them on the idea of offering incentives to customers who check in or become mayor on a social network like Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, or Yelp. 

Thoughts? How many of you use a location-based social network? Or would you rather punch a time clock?